North Carolina Storms Leave 22 Dead Over The Weekend

Apr 18, 2011, 09:31 by John Steele

Severe storms and tornados ravaged the southern U.S. this weekend, with fatalities reported in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Virginia and North Carolina. In all, the storms left 45 dead and millions in property damage in their wake.

North Carolina got the worst of it. According to Reuters, the state had 22 fatalities, 130 injuries, and significant damage to 26 counties.

Virginia was also hit hard. With four confirmed dead, the Medical Examiner's office is still trying to confirm reports of three more deaths. Virginia emergency officials said that 177 structures had been damaged by the severe weather.

The storms began Thursday, when three tornados touched down simultaneously on the small town of Tushka, Oklahoma. In all, two people were killed and the local schoolhouse destroyed in a town with only around 400 people.

The storm system cut a swath of destruction across the south. Seven people died in Alabama, seven died in Arkansas and one died in Mississippi. By the time the system hit the east coast on Saturday, there were 241 tornadoes reported, with 50 confirmed. That number may be too conservative. According to CNN, preliminary National Weather Service records indicate more than 90 tornadoes struck North Carolina on Saturday, more than four times the average 19 that hit the state in a typical year.

The tornados knocked down power and phone lines. Some areas fared better than others.

Dominion Virginia Power said the two nuclear reactors at its Surry Power Station in southeastern Virginia shut down automatically on Saturday when an apparent tornado touched down and cut off an electrical feed to the station. But the backup generators prevented widespread power outages and there was no radiation leak, Reuters reported Sunday evening.

North Carolina wasn't so lucky. Progress Energy, the main utility in eastern North Carolina, said 220,000 customers were without electricity at the peak of the storm, with 78,000 homes and utilities still without power on Sunday morning.

The storm snapped hundreds of power poles and 30 transmission structures were damaged, company spokesman Mike Hughes said. In some areas, tornadoes swept away poles and wires and dropped them elsewhere.

According to CNN, rural Bertie County was hit hardest, with 11 of North Carolina's 22 deaths were reported. The storm destroyed 67 homes and severely damaged at least 15, said County Manager Zee Lamb.

"Starting today we go into recovery mode," Lamb told CNN Monday morning.